They play as one and fill in the gaps. Not necessarily worried about what it shows in the box score, the Lady Lions’ bench just wants to make an impact.
Whether it’s eating up minutes while the starters catch a break, snagging rebounds off the glass, or playing tough defense, Penn State’s reserves are willing to do it all.
But with a slim roster, bench play is vital for the No. 7 Lions (17-2, 7-0 Big Ten).
With only 11 players listed on the roster –– 10 on the active roster with the loss of senior forward Marisa Wolfe due to concussion-like symptoms –– the Lions have the smallest roster in the conference.
But maybe that’s a good thing.
Last season, the Lions dealt with the same situation and despite fighting the injury bug, which at one time left the team with only eight active players for a short span, they still managed to capture the regular season conference championship.
Thus far this season the Lions are showing similar signs of last season’s championship team and are in sole possession of first-place in the conference standings. Riding an 11-game winning streak, head coach Coquese Washington accredits her squad’s success to its confidence and ability to trust one another.
“I think one of the things is the confidence individually of the players, but also the confidence in their teammates,” Washington said. “They don’t feel the burden of having to make plays individually because we are a team. They feel like if they are not able to go for a reason, we have people that can make the plays and help us to sustain whatever it is that we have to sustain, until our starters get back on the floor.”
The starters average 57.3 points per game, accounting for nearly 78 percent of the squad’s scoring. Junior forward Ariel Edwards is the only bench player that scores more than three points per game, and her 8.1 PPG rank her fourth on the team in terms of scoring.
While the scoring numbers may not always be reflected, the Lions’ bench players are making contributions in other ways and are more than happy with their roles on the team.
“We know that going into the game it’s not always about points, you want to go hard, you want to do the things that aren’t necessarily going to show up in the stat sheets,” senior guard Gizelle Studevent said. “Go hard, play defense, do those kinds of things and then the other things will come along.”
Washington says that she loves her bench and how those players contribute. Sophomore post player Tori Waldner is 11th in the conference with 1.2 blocks per game and is ranked one spot above fellow teammate Nikki Greene, despite playing 10 minutes less per game than Greene does.
She also talked about junior forward Talia East’s ability to come into the game and grab rebounds, helping to give the Lions more possessions during games.
“[Talia] had six rebounds in 13 minutes [at Michigan] which is just a fantastic ratio and that leads to our transition, that leads to our fast breaks, it does a lot of good things,” Washington said. “When you have somebody like Nikki, who gets in foul trouble, but you can bring not one, but two post subs off the bench and they can impact the game statistically, it’s just a wonderful luxury.”